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Why A Welsh Dominated Lions Team Is Cause For Concern

Why A Welsh Dominated Lions Team Is Cause For Concern
By Emmet O'Keeffe
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Regardless of whether you agree with Warren Gatland's decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll to accommodate the return of Jamie Roberts, the make-up of the Lions team to face Australia in the third test is now a concern. The starting XV includes ten Welsh players and as has been pointed out on numerous occasions, Wales have had a terrible record against the Wallabies. The Six Nations Champions have lost their last eight matches when opposing Robbie Deans' side including four defeats in 2012. All four of those matches were close with the biggest winning margin being 8 points in the first test of a Summer tour with the margin for those next three losses being no greater than no two points.

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So there is some logic to say that if the Wales team were very close to beating Australia by themselves then the five new additions from England and Ireland with some added impact off the bench, should be enough to get them over the line. However, it is debatable whether any of the five non-Welsh players outside of Jonny Sexton are really big upgrades over those usually available to Gatland in his day job. Alex Corbisiero wasn't selected ahead of Gethin Jenkins in the original 37 man squad and Geoff Parling ahead of Ian Evans in the second row is debatable. Sean O'Brien has been unlucky to miss out on a starting berth at either blind-side flanker or No.8 but even the 'Tullow Tank's' most ardent supporters wouldn't pick him ahead of Sam Warburton at open-side. Tommy Bowe provides a subtlety that Alex Cuthbert lacks but again that's a pretty tight call.

Warren Gatland's conservative approach has also nullified some of Sexton's greatest strengths. The Racing Métro out-half has rarely taken the ball flat close to the defensive line and there has been a notable absence of the wrap-arounds that have been a feature of his play at Leinster. He has been rightly been praised for his tactical kicking in the first two tests but there is far more to his game than that. It is instructive to read his quotes before and after the second test. “We’ll look to try to attack them this week. We didn’t really get the chance last week, we’ll have a go this week.” and then post-match, "At times it felt as if we were wishing the game to finish rather than going out and going after it. That's how I felt anyway".

With O'Brien getting the nod ahead of genuine 'groundhog' Justin Tipuric and Richard Hibbard coming in for his scrummaging, it doesn't appear as if Gatland is going to change tack. So now what we're left with is a team that is not much different or better than Wales who never beat Australia. It would be foolish to say that the Lions cannot win on Saturday considering how fine the margins have been in first two tests but how can you expect it?

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